Sun, Nov 28, 2010 - Page 11 News List

Shoppers eat up Black Friday deals

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE:Fifteen percent of shoppers’ purchases were for themselves, up from 9 percent last year and 5 percent in 2008, which is an encouraging sign

AP, NEW YORK

Visitors shop at Santa Monica Place in Santa Monica, California, on Friday. US shoppers were back in a Black Friday bargain-binging mood, snapping up hoodies and computer laptops at stores in a turnout that could give the economic recovery more steam.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Millions of US shoppers braved rain and cold to crowd stores, while others grabbed online bargains on what could be the busiest Black Friday ever.

Early signs pointed to bigger crowds at many stores including Best Buy, Sears, Macy’s and Toys R Us, some of which had earlier openings than past years or even round-the-clock hours. Minnesota’s Mall of America and mall operators Taubman Centers Inc and Macerich Co also reported more customers than last year.

However, the most encouraging sign for retailing and for the economy was what Americans were throwing in their carts. Shoppers still clutched lists and the buying frenzy was focused on the deals on TVs and toys, but many were treating themselves while they bought gifts for others, adding items like boots, sumptuous sweaters, jewelry and even dresses for special occasions.

Black Friday, usually one of the busiest shopping days of the year, is a day in which retail stores have enough sales to put them “in the black” — an accounting expression alluding to the practice of recording losses in red and profits in black.

In a bid to grab shoppers earlier on the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, a number of stores including Old Navy, Toys R Us and Sears opened on Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Toys R Us, which drew in shoppers with 50 percent discounts on such toys as Buzz Lightyear and Barbies, was counting on -getting an extra boost by opening 24 hours straight, starting at 10pm on Thanksgiving.

Toys R Us’ 10pm opening at its flagship store in Times Square drew 1,500 shoppers, CEO Jerry Storch says.

“Where there are bargains, there are people looking to gobble them up,” said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst for market research firm NPD.

Though people were mostly sticking to their lists, some were picking up small extras.

However, “the consumer is still very calculated.”

In an encouraging sign for retailers and for the economy, more shoppers appeared to be buying for themselves than last year, when such indulgences were limited.

During the disastrous 2008 Christmas, shell-shocked shoppers stuck to buying gifts for others.

Cohen, who had a team of consultants monitoring 11 regions in the US, estimated that 15 percent of purchases so far on Friday were items for themselves, up from about 9 percent last year on the same day. On Black Friday 2008, he estimated it dropped to about 5 percent. In good economic times, such purchases run about 26 percent, Cohen said.

“I would not go out in the cold for family,” joked Kat Reyngold, 35, who wanted a 40-inch Westinghouse TV on sale at the Chicago Target for US$299.

Bad weather, however, could put a damper on sales. Rain was falling or threatening much of the East Coast, and morning subfreezing temperatures were gripping the Midwest and mountain states, -according to the National Weather Service.

The fierce battle for shoppers’ wallets promises savings for those willing and able to buy amid an economy that’s still worrying many.

The good news is that US retailers are heading into the season with some momentum after a solid start to this month. Shoppers who can afford it are buying more nonessentials, like jewelry and luxury goods. That’s helping to lift their spirits about the holiday season, which is expected to generate revenue gains modestly higher than a year ago.

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